Ten years ago this magazine received an advance copy of Dr. Masaru Emoto’s book Messages from Water, with its dramatic photographs of ice crystals said to be shaped by words, music, or prayer. Emoto’s message seemed compelling: human intention could alter the crystal structure of water — love creates beautiful crystals and hatred creates ugly crystals. Our problem was that scientific discoveries tend to be announced in peer-reviewed papers rather than in self-published books. We inquired about Dr. Emoto’s methods, got no response, and ignored the book, thinking it would go away.
By 2005, Dr. Emoto had three best-sellers and still no significant science to back up his photographs. As veteran science writer Jill Neimark observed in this magazine, “He is a scientific experiment of one, and for all we know, he is selecting crystals that confirm his natural bias and discarding the rest.” Worse, Dr. Emoto’s Ph.D. came from Open International University in India, where such degrees can be purchased for less than $500, and a photo essay from a scientific journal that came with his new press materials identified him at Masaru Emoto, M.D.
In 2006, however, “Masaru Emoto, B.A.” was listed as a coauthor of a pilot study by Dean Radin, Ph.D., published in the journal Explore, titled “A Double-Blind Test of the Effect of Distant Intention on Water Crystal Formation.” For this study, Mr. Emoto had 2,000 of his followers in Tokyo focus gratitude on bottles of water placed in an electromagnetically shielded room at the Institute of Noetic Science in Petaluma, California. Unbeknownst to Emoto, Dr. Radin had two other bottles of water to serve as controls. When 100 people were asked to judge a beauty contest between photographs of crystals from the “treated” water and the controls, the treated water was rated significantly more beautiful. So perhaps Mr. Emoto was right: human intention did alter the formation of ice.
But a better-controlled “triple-blind” follow-up study published this winter in the Journal of Scientific Exploration didn’t work out so well.
This time, more than 1,900 of Mr. Emoto’s followers focused gratitude on water bottles in the vault over a period of three days. Then the water was frozen and compared to two different sets of controls in a very elaborate protocol. Interestingly, the crystals, both “treated” and not, on average were not particularly beautiful (scoring 1.7 on a scale of 0 to 6, where 6 was very beautiful). And while the treated crystals were rated slightly more beautiful than one set of controls, they were rated ever-so-slightly less beautiful than the other set of controls. An objective comparison of contrast did not reveal any significant differences among the samples.
Both studies used Emoto’s followers, his procedures, and his lab to create and photograph the crystals, so they were effectively testing the validity of the dramatic photos in his best-sellers. While intension may or may not affect water, the results speak volumes. Perhaps Emoto is an evangelist who values the message of his images more than the particulars of science; nevertheless, this spiritual teacher might focus his future practice less on gratitude and more on honesty.